How an Estate is Settled Through Probate in Florida
When people die, their estate must be settled. This includes their personal property, real property, bank accounts and any other assets. In Florida, this often means that the estate will go through probate. While many people have heard of this time, few fully understand what it entails and how it will affect you if a family member dies.
First, it is important to understand exactly what probate is. It is a legal process that entails settling their estate by identifying any valid wills, inventorying the deceased’s property, appraising the property, paying any remaining debts, and distributing the remaining property either according to the will or per state law (if there was no will or it was deemed invalid). This can be a lengthy process and should be done precisely to avoid further costs and delays.
Steps to take
The first thing that should be done after a person has died is identify a personal representative of the estate. This can be done either via the will (if an executor was nominated) or by request to the court. This would be done in the county in which the deceased person was living at the time of his or her death.
Once this representative is appointed, the court will issue what is known as Letters of Administration, a document that gives this representative authority to settle the estate. If the deceased’s person had a will, it must be filed with the court and the court will determine whether it is valid.
Following this, the personal representative of the estate inventories all of the property and assets of the estate. Any remaining debts are paid out of the estate, assuming that the value of the estate is more than the cost of the remaining debts and taxes. Finally, any remaining property is distributed according to either the will or by state law. Following this, the personal representative will submit a final accounting of this process to the court and anyone who objects to it can petition the court.
Once the court has approved the final accounting, the personal representative will ask the court to close the estate. After that, the personal representative has no further obligations and the probate process is complete. This can take upwards of a year and even longer if there are issues with paperwork or accounting.
For the guidance you need during the probate process, consult a skilled Florida estate planning attorney with the Charles Law Offices.